1. Archive

It's all tied up before and after Round 1

The key word at a U.S. Open is patience, and players preach it from golf's gospel whenever the championship is contested.

Few on Thursday were able to live by those words, as nerves frayed and tempers flared.

Spectators from the New York metropolitan area fumed because many got caught in traffic for more than three hours. Golfers railed because they waited on the course for nearly five hours.

Patience? Good thing there was no violence.

After the first round of the 93rd U.S. Open, the leaderboard at Baltusrol Golf Club looks a lot like the highways that surrounded it Thursday _ bumper to bumper.

Scott Hoch, Joey Sindelar and Australia's Craig Parry are tied after shooting 4-under-par 66s.

Lee Janzen and Craig Stadler are a shot back at 67. Seven players, including Raymond Floyd, Fred Couples and Corey Pavin, are at 68. And six players, including Palm Harbor's Bill Glasson, shot 69.

At even-par 70 and four shots back are 26 players, including major championship winners Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Scott Simpson, Larry Nelson, Sandy Lyle, Ian Baker-Finch, Payne Stewart, Ian Woosnam, Mark Calcavecchia and Nick Faldo.

In all, 73 players are within five shots of the leaders. The 7,152-yard course yielded a scoring average of 72.282, the lowest ever in the first round of a U.S. Open. There were eight eagles, including a hole-in-one at the par-3 12th by Mike Hulbert.

"This is one of the fairest Open courses I've ever seen as far as rewarding the good shots and penalizing the bad ones," said Simpson, who won the U.S. Open in 1987. "It's more forgiving. When I won the Open, there were just two guys under par. I think there will be more guys under par."

Unlike most Opens, where players have been known to raise objections about the set-up of the course, this time they have been downright nice, praising the United States Golf Association for giving them a tough but fair test, with moderate rough and wider fairways.

Instead, there were other bumps in the road. The traffic problems were so bad that Payne Stewart's caddie, Mike Hicks, had to jump out of his car and run a mile to the course in order to make his boss' tee time.

Players generally experienced few highway woes because they were given a secret route to the course. But spectators were none too pleased. Some of them, after spending three hours on the road less than 5 miles from the course, were turned away because the parking lots were full.

The USGA had to regroup and formulate a new parking and driving plan to keep its tournament from becoming a disaster.

Next, it will need to figure out a way to get the players around the course faster. Despite a new pace-of-play policy, golfers _ like cars _ crawled.

"For three grown professional men to take nearly five hours to play 18 holes is ridiculous," Fulton Allem said. "It's very frustrating."

None of this was any problem for Hoch, who had nothing but highway in front of him in the wee hours. And with a 7:10 tee time and playing in the second group, there was very little waiting.

"I had a Band-Aid on my swing all day, and it was holding up," said Hoch, who had to qualify for the Open last week in Orlando. "I really didn't feel confident at all, and I told my family and friends, "Stay where you are because I'll probably be home early.' I really didn't have good feelings about this.

"My round today I compare to a duck _ on the surface, he looks fine, like he's moving right along, no problems at all. But underneath, he's paddling like heck just to keep up. That's what I felt like inside."

More than eight hours later came Parry, who shares some Masters misfortune with Hoch. In 1989, Hoch had a 2-foot putt to win the tournament in a sudden-death playoff, but missed. Faldo won it on the next hole with a birdie. Last year, Parry led the Masters by two going into the final round, but crumbled in Couples' shadow.

"I've had a pretty lean 12 months, ever since Augusta last year," Parry said. "I've always known I could win some big tournaments. I think I concentrate better in major championships than I do in regular tournaments. Hopefully, I've learned about all the mistakes I've made in the past."

Between Hoch and Parry came Sindelar, who missed a 7-foot birdie putt at 18 that would have given him the outright lead.

"I'm in no position to squawk," said Sindelar, who has six PGA Tour victories. "I got away with a lot more than I gave up. It was a very functional round of golf. I made a couple of good, long putts, and I stayed patient."

Which, on this day, was difficult to do.